ADK Book Club

Led by Betsy Folwell and Amy Godine
August 13, 2020 at 7pm via Zoom

For the first time ever, two brilliant writers in the region, Betsy Folwell and Amy Godine, will lead a discussion of two hand-picked Adirondack books. Betsy Folwell, of Adirondack Life Magazine, has selected two titles that should be heralded for both excellence of craft and for echoing life as it is experienced in the rural communities of the Adirondacks. The two titles selected to discuss are Adirondack Portraits: A Piece of Time by Jeanne Robert Foster and The People from Heaven by John Sanford. 


This virtual, one-of-a-kind event presented by Adirondack Center for Writing is an opportunity open to the public to talk about these mostly overlooked books with two great thinkers of our region.

Literature about rural and small-town life in the Adirondacks reflects the writer’s personal experience, perspective, and imaginative skills. The authors of these Adirondack books come from vastly different worlds.

John Sanford (1904-2003, born Julian Shapiro) was raised in Harlem, the activist son of a Russian-born Jewish lawyer. In time Sanford would set his sights on Hollywood, where he wrote screenplays and nonfiction books. But his literary life first bloomed inside the Blue Line, when he and his friend Nathanael West (1903-1940, born Nathan Weinstein) holed up in a cabin outside Warrensburg in 1931 and started writing stories. West is best remembered for his short novels, Miss Lonelyhearts and Day of the Locust. John Sanford produced the short stories whose driving concern with rural racism and xenophobia took on a darker, more incendiary tone in his 1943 novel, The People From Heaven.

Jeanne Robert Foster addressed these themes as well, but from the perspective of the insider, a country girl from a hard-strapped home in Johnsburg, who grew up with the people she describes. More tenderness and patience distinguish her outlook, which makes her lack of sentimentality all the more impressive. A great beauty in her youth, she was a fashion model and a literary editor who would marry an older, monied patron of the arts, and be plunged into the heady world of literary and artistic luminaries in New York and Europe. But her family roots in an impoverished upstate backwater were not forgotten. The stripped-back, deceptively simple poems and character sketches in Adirondack Portraits (writings which have been likened to Robert Frost’s) continue to unsettle us and speak for the voiceless even now.

Special thanks to our event partners, Adirondack Experience.

Where to find the books.

Adirondack Portraits: A Piece of Time by Jeanne Robert Foster will be available at your nearest local library or by request through your library. There will be six copies of The People from Heaven by John Sanford available for borrowing from the ACW office. If you would like to borrow a copy, please contact Baylee at to reserve a copy. Books can also be purchased from your nearest local bookstore.